District 27 support staff needed

A leading volunteer firefighter says he is concerned brigades are losing their presence in the local community in the wake of the establishment of the new CFA District 27.

In April last year, two separate districts merged to become District 27 with the aim of tailoring itself to address the unique risks posed by the region’s open-cut mines.

However, the State Government’s $5.5 million contribution to form the new CFA district in the wake of the Hazelwood mine fire has not delivered administrative and training staff necessary to local brigades.

District 27 group officer and Churchill Fire Station captain Steven Barling said firefighters were still waiting on the recruitment of two brigade administrative support officers and one training officer to support all brigades in the Latrobe region.

Mr Barling believes the cost to fill these positions is minimal and yet vital to firefighters’ ability to manage administrative operations, participate in community events, fire awareness campaigns and education.

“It’s impacting on our capability to deliver services in the community, not so much our response service, we’ll do that no matter what,” Mr Barling said.

“It’s the other things that we do to improve community safety, talking to groups, schools and parents, people that live in the bush (about fires),” he said.

The region’s acting operations manager, Bryan Russell, said District 27 had identified the positions were needed and hoped funding would come in the State Government’s May budget.

Mr Russell said the positions assisted with the brigade’s administrative workload and the day-to-day running of the brigade, while the training position was a coordination role for brigade training requirements.

“Funding for that is not in the current budget allocation and we’ll be waiting to see further funding from the government,” Mr Russell said.

He said District 27 had come a long way since the Hazelwood mine fire, making inroads with the power industry and heavy industry such as Hancock Victorian Plantations and Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe criticised the government for stalling on the recruitment of the positions.

“Unfortunately, since District 27 was launched last year there has been a total lack of action from the Labor Government and they have failed to deliver the resources they promised,” Mr Northe said.

A government spokesperson said it made District 27 a reality with a $5.5 million investment which would make the Latrobe Valley safer.

“Specific resourcing decisions are made by the CFA in line with longstanding practice,” the spokesperson said.